UK, House of Commons, “Government of Canada”, vol 54, cols 1115-1154 (12 June 1840)
By: UK (House of Commons)
Citation: UK, HC, “Government of Canada“, vol 54 (1840), cols 1115-1154.
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GOVERNMENT OF CANADA
The order of the day for the third reading of the Canada Government Bill having been moved and read from the chair,
Mr. Hume said, he thought it important that the present system of arbitrary government should be put an end to. He therefore withdrew his opposition to the bill, though he protested strongly against the system which had been pursued with reference to Canada.
Sir G. Sinclair—I cannot allow this bill to pass through its final state without briefly and respectfully recording the grounds upon which I altogether dissent from its provisions. I think that the disjunction of the Canadian provinces which took place in 1791, was a wise and statesmanlike act—and the reasons which at that time led to its adoption, continue to subsist in their full force—there being still the same marked and palpable difference between Upper and Lower Canada in respect to language, habits, interests and religion. The partnership was dissolved by mutual consent. I do not believe that either party is at all desirous to renew it, but the noble Lord determines to force upon them a connection to which they are both averse.
Diductosque jugo cogit aheneo.
I fear that the compulsory union of the two provinces will accelerate the separation of both from the British empire. This measure is so constructed as to give a triumph to the French over the English, to the Roman Catholics over the Protestants, to the traitorous over the well-affected. I do not mean to charge the Roman Catholics as such with disloyalty to the Crown, but it would not be denied even by themselves, that they entertain a deep-rooted hostility to the Protestant Church, and whatever differences might subsist between them on other points, are all suspended or forgotten when an opportunity occurs in any quarter to injure the Protestant religion or to further the interests of their own. I cannot, therefore, doubt that in the joint legislature about to be created, the Roman Catholics of both provinces will cordially unite on all occasions in endeavouring to cripple, to undermine, or to annihilate the Established Church, to impair its influence, and diminish its revenues, whilst the unhappy dissensions which so often prevail among Protestants of different denominations, may prevent them from making common cause against the common enemy. Government, Sir, is perhaps of all others the word, to which it is most customary to affix certain vague and indefinite epithets which convey very different meanings to different minds.
Some persons are fond of saying, that they are the friends of good Government—but who ever set up as a champion of bad Government? and the expression good Government would bear a very opposite signification at Petersburgh, or at Philadelphia. Others again are all for cheap Government. Now no one, it may be presumed, would be an advocate for dear or profuse Government; but the word dear would by no means be similarly construed by my hon. Friends the Members for the University of Oxford and for Kilkenny. In this instance the cry is for responsible Government. But this phrase also admits of various meanings, and I am persuaded that in the mouths of those who are so clamourously insisting upon it on behalf of the Canadas, it means a Government altogether responsible to themselves, and which shall, as soon as possible, divest itself of all responsibility to the British Parliament or to the British Crown. I cannot help thinking that the weight of authority, so far as opinions are unbiassed and uncontrolled, preponderates against this bill. Notwithstanding the talent and acuteness by which the Earl of
Durham is so highly distinguished, it seems to be generally conceded, that his recommendations were somewhat hastily adopted on his part, and were to a considerable extent, founded on erroneous impressions. The plan of uniting the provinces is altogether disapproved of by Sir F. Head who governed one of them with so much wisdom, and saved it with so much energy, from becoming a prey to rebellious incendiaries—it is condemned by that distinguished man Sir Peregrine Maitland—it is denounced by the high authority of Chief Justice Robinson, and the sentiments of certain other very celebrated public functionaries, are, to say the least of it, very imperfectly ascertained.
The bishop of Toronto, and many members of the Assembly in Upper Canada, are hostile to the measure, but their voices are unheard, and their remonstrances unheeded. From Lower Canada, too, a petition has been lately presented against the union, the signatures to which are both numerous and respectable, the sentiments loyal and patriotic, the arguments solid and conclusive, and I believe that many of the French inhabitants will rue the day on which “Monsieur Tonson” was first enquired after at the Government house. I lament that I am compelled on this occasion to differ from my right hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth, and other respected politicians on this side of the House, but I have observed that many measures which the great Statesmen of both parties concur in honouring with their furtherance and approbation, have often turned out to be lamentable failures, and far more injurious than beneficial to the general interests of the country; besides which, my right hon.
Friend does not himself entertain a decided confidence in his own opinion, and seems reluctantly to sanction this project of union as a preferable alternative of evils. I contend that the sentiments of the inhabitants have not been fully ascertained in either province, that undue means had been resorted to for the purpose of extorting an appearance of assent and stifling the language of dissatisfaction. In proof of this, I shall read the following dispatch, addressed by the noble Lord to Sir J. Arthur, on the 16th October, 1839:— Sir,—I am desirous of directing your attention to the terms on which public offices in the gift of the Crown appear to have been held throughout the British colonies. I cannot learn that during the present or two last reigns a single instance has occurred of a change in the subordinate colonial officers except in
case of death or resignation, incapacity, or misconduct—it is time, therefore, that a different course should be followed, and the object of my present communication is to announce to you the rules which will hereafter be observed on this subject in the province of Upper Canada, You will understand and cause it to be generally known, that hereafter the tenure of colonial offices held during her Majesty’s pleasure, will not be regarded as equivalent to a tenure during good behaviour, but that such officers will be called upon to retire from the public service as often as any sufficient motives of public policy may suggest the expediency of that measure.
I hoped, Sir, that such a communication would be read with indignant reprobation by Governor T., who in this country had ever been a friend to the ballot and a declared enemy to undue influence, but on passing to the next passage of the pamphlet from which this document is extracted, I was mortified to find that his Excellency also had turned over a new leaf since his arrival in Canada, for he states to the noble Lord in reply, “this publication appears to have been attended with good effects.” On reading a declaration which seems to me to be so much at variance with his former professions, I was unable to refrain from exclaiming, “Oh! Poulett Thomson, Poulett Thomson, oh!” Her Majesty’s Ministers ought, at all events, to have conferred upon the Members of the local Legislature the same latitude which they conceded to themselves, and to have allowed the subject of the union to be an “open question” as is here the case with the Corn-laws, the Ballot, and many other measures of primary importance. I wish to speak with great respect of the abilities and patriotic intentions of Governor T., but I do not think that from the shortness of his residence in the colonies, his advice can be entitled to be put on a level with that of his predecessors who, in addition to equal sagacity, had the benefit of longer experience.
His Excellency might well exclaim, veni I landed, vidi I made a tour, vici I carried every thing before me. But this victory has in part at least, been achieved by the ungenerous expedients of improper influence and intimidation. A threat, or even an indirect insinuation that the British troops would be withdrawn if this plan were not assented to, is equivalent to an intimation on the part of the chief authorities in any district notoriously infested by incendiaries, that if some luckless proprietor did not accede to a scheme, of which in his heart he altogether disapproved, all the
fire engines within 100 miles shall be removed at a moment’s warning. I cannot sit down without expressing my astonishment that Mr. Baldwin should have been selected to hold a high office under the Crown, a gentleman who, to say the least of it, had in a most critical emergency, displayed a culpable lukewarmness and such a neutrality as Solon, at least, would have loudly condemned. Why have so many lawyers of equal talent and more conspicuous loyalty, incurred the unmerited mortification of being passed over on his account? Is there not too much reason to believe that under the present system of colonial Government the disaffected may rely upon toleration, forgiveness, and recompense, whilst individuals most distinguished for their zeal and for their exertions in behalf of British interests, are systematically discouraged and neglected. I will not detain the House by any further observations, but being conscientiously persuaded that this bill is hailed with approbation by all partisans of Canadian independence as greatly tending to promote the success of their cause, and is either tacitly or avowedly dreaded and deprecated by the most attached adherents of the mother country, I shall conclude by moving, that it be read a third time this day six months.
Sir R. Peel said, his intention was to give his support to the third reading of this bill. He felt it to be necessary to the honour and credit of Parliament, that something decisive should be done now for the government of the Canadas. After the years which had been spent in deliberation upon the state of the Canadas—after the many commissions which had been instituted—after the numerous inquiries which had been made, unless the House was now prepared to take a decisive course, either by passing this bill or by suggesting some alternative for it—if they referred the question again to the Canadas, rejecting the Government plan, and substituting no other for it, it would be undermining British ascendancy in Canada, and bringing into contempt the supremacy of the British Legislature. He wished hon. Members to tell him what course they were prepared to pursue, in case they did not adopt the bill of the noble Lord. He asked that question, because matters he thought were at last arrived at that pass, when the rejection of the measure proposed by Government ought to be accompanied by the proposition of another measure in its stead. He knew of no alternative but to attempt
to unite the two provinces, or to continue the arbitrary system of government in Lower Canada for an indefinite period, leaving Upper Canada under its present constitution, or to divide the two provinces into three separate districts, and to appoint in each a popular and representative government. With respect to the latter course, he knew not what were the feelings of the inhabitants of the two provinces upon it, and, therefore, he would not discuss it further at present. Then, as to the course of maintaining Upper Canada on its present footing, and of continuing the government of Lower Canada under a Governor and Special Council, he should like to know for what period that course was to be pursued? Did they mean to continue it indefinitely? If they did not, if they meant to restore a Representative Government to Lower Canada, did they anticipate the arrival of any period at which that restoration could be effected with less difficulty than at present?
From all the accounts which he had perused, it appeared that the feelings of animosity arising out of the late lamentable insurrection were allayed as much as it was possible that they could be, and that there was not a prospect during the next six or seven years of restoring a popular government to Lower Canada, and of affecting an union with Upper Canada, at a period preferable to the present. He called upon hon. Gentlemen to consider in what a state the province of Upper Canada would be during that time. Was it to remain in the expectation of an eventual union, with a Legislature doomed to death at the end of a certain number of years, and with every prospect of improvement in a continual state of paralysis? Would they prevent the upper province from enjoying during that time, all the facilities of intercourse which nature had provided by means of the St. Lawrence, and which were essential to its commerce and its welfare?
Besides, did not hon. Gentleman recollect, that in the preamble of the bill suspending the constitution of Lower Canada, Parliament had given a pledge that constitutional Government should be restored as soon as possible in that country? In giving his consent to this measure, he did not mean to conceal from the House, that he could not view it without great apprehension. He defied, however, any person to form a Government in those provinces after all the dissension by which they had been distracted, after the formidable rebellion which had recently taken place in them,
with a full consideration of the habits of the people, and their division into two races, one well attached, and the other hostile, to British connexion; he defied, he said, any person with a full consideration of all that had passed in Canada, during the last seven or eight years, to frame a form of government for them which should be totally without danger. Such a notion was perfectly chimerical. The House therefore had to decide between two dangers—that of leaving things as they were at present, and that of amending them by the present bill. He wished the House was fully aware of the importance of this measure.
He believed that this question of colonial relation, and the obligation which that relation imposed, the war in which they might be involved for the maintenance of it—he believed, he said, that the relation in which England stood at present to the Canadas, involved considerations far more important than those which affected its relations with any state of Europe. The House had declared its intention to maintain the union of the two Canadas with Great Britain; the people of the two Canadas had also declared their intention to stand by that union; and, therefore it must be protected at all risks and against all parties who might feel inclined to infringe it. He doubted whether he could have suggested a better scheme for the good of the Canadas; certainly he had at present no better scheme to offer; and he preferred the attempt to govern the Canadas by a union of the two provinces to any other which had been proposed.
What decided his mind in favour of the union, was the preponderance of the local authorities in the provinces in support of it. If he had heard from the province of Upper Canada strong objections to the proposed union, he should have deferred to their opinion, and would not have proceeded further. After their noble sacrifices to preserve British connexion, if the people of Upper Canada had expressed a wish to decline the proposed union with the lower province, their opinion would have been decisive with him. But what was the fact? He deferred to the judgment of those who were on the spot—of those who had knowledge of the local circumstances of the province, and who were the best judges of their own interests—and he found in the printed papers before the House, decisive preponderating evidence in favour of the union over every other scheme. He took the opinion of the
people of the Canadas, the authorities of the Canadas, and of the Governors of the Canadas. Lord Seaton, in his despatch, dated the 28th of July, 1839, after having stated, that he had given full public notice, that Government intended to propose a union between the two provinces, made a report on the feelings of the inhabitants of both provinces with respect to that measure. He said, that the French Canadians, who were opposed to it last year, were not so adverse to it now, and that the Upper Canadians looked forward to it as a measure, that would relieve them from many embarrassments, and promote their internal and commercial interests.
With respect to the constituted authorities of the provinces, there was only one such body in Lower Canada—the Special Council appointed by Sir J. Colborne. Mr. Thomson, the new Governor, did not call a new Special Council, but submitted the question of the union to the old Council, who came to two resolutions upon the subject. It was necessary, that he should vindicate the course he was now taking, by referring to the testimonies of competent persons to show, that the measure was in accordance with the feeling of the people of Canada. He must place on record the evidence in dependence on which he overruled his own apprehensions. The Special Council declared, that:— In order to provide for the peace and tranquillity, and the good constitutional and official government of the two provinces, the political union of the two provinces under one Legislature, in the opinion of this Council, has become of indispensable and urgent necessity.” (And that) “The declared determination of her Majesty, to re-unite the two provinces, is in accordance with the opinion entertained by this Council, and receives their ready acquiescence. These resolutions were not hastily adopted; they were contested, and out of fifteen members of the Special Council, twelve voted in approval of the resolution, and three only objected to it. The Legislative Council of Lower Canada affirmed the principle of the union, and presented an address to Mr. Thomson, in which was the following passage:— In conformity with the desire of your Excellency, we have applied our deliberate consideration to the various complex interests and objects involved in the measure, and most humbly express our gratitude to her Majesty for having granted her sanction to the measure, which, from our local knowledge and the experience we have had of the government of
these provinces, and their past and present political state, we deem essential to the future peace and welfare, and good constitutional government of the same, under the protecting care of her Majesty. A division was taken, an amendment was moved, and the Legislative Council affirmed the address by a majority of thirteen to two. The same course was pursued in Upper Canada; the question was not committed to a new Assembly, but left to the decision of an old one, called under entirely different circumstances by Sir F. Head. The Legislative Council declared in favour of the bill, by a majority of fourteen to eight. They said, that a re-union of the provinces had become indispensable to the restoration of good government, and the maintenance of their connection with the parent state. The Assembly took a course exactly consonant with this, and, by a majority of forty-four to eleven, approved not only of the principle, but of the general enactments of the bill. He (Sir R. Peel) found it utterly impossible to resist the evidence he had produced of the opinion of the inhabitants of Canada, of British race, and the constituted authorities, in favour of the present measure. It was said, that undue means had been used for the purpose of extorting those opinions. He must say, he had a better opinion of the inhabitants of both Upper and Lower Canada, at least of those who had been called to the chief offices of state, than to believe, that after public notice, they would have acted so dishonourable, shabby, and effeminate a part as to have shrunk from the performance of their duty on account of some cajolery of a Governor who had arrived amongst them only two months before. He had seen it publicly stated, that his opinions in favour of a union had been quoted by Mr. Thomson.
He could not believe the fact; he could not believe, that that right hon. Gentleman had made any use of his name, for he had never had one word of communication with him directly or indirectly either by conversation or writing on this subject. Mr. Thomson had no other means of knowing them than any other member of the community. Last Session he had objected decidedly to affirm the principle of the union, unless Government were prepared to carry it into effect immediately, because he would not consent to any abstract resolution, unless it were to be forthwith put in execution. He should, indeed, despair of Canada, if this were not the free expression of the public will; because
the people of that colony were not fit to be intrusted with self-government, if they could be persuaded to conceal their honest opinions under the influence of any such motive as he had supposed. He was not inclined to lay great stress on the opinions of Lord Durham, or Mr. Thomson, who had been but a short time in the colony, but he certainly did attach the greatest weight to that of Lord Seaton. The respect he had for the character of that noble and gallant Lord, the offices he had filled in Canada, the opportunities he had had of understanding the interests and ascertaining the feelings of the inhabitants in both the upper and lower provinces, would induce him (Sir R. Peel) to give the greatest weight to Lord Seaton’s opinions. It was from the despatches of the noble Lord alone, that he drew his knowledge of the noble Lord’s opinions; those despatches he had read with great care, and he certainly could not form the conclusion that the noble Lord was unfavourable to the principle of the union. He could not believe that Sir G. Arthur’s opinions were unfavourable to the principle of the union, and he said at once, if Government knew that so high an authority did entertain opinions different from those which he had a right to assume that sir G. Arthur held, according to the documents before the House, then the responsibility they incurred by conciliating Parliamentary support towards this union by a suppression of important information, which might have led hon.
Members to adopt other opinions, would be fearful indeed. But it was in the confidence that no such formal, authorized, and substantial contradiction could be given to these supposed opinions of Sir G. Arthur, that he now gave his assent to the measure. It was because no better measure had been suggested—because both the people and the constituted authorities of both provinces, according to the testimony of Lord Seaton and the recorded resolutions of those bodies, had declared their wish for such a measure, and on the latter ground mainly, that he had overcome the apprehensions he entertained, and brought his mind to assent to this measure. He regretted that he had not been in the House when the bill was in committee, in order that he might have been able to give its details a fuller consideration, and he should wish even now that the noble Lord would recommit the bill, if he could do so without hazarding its loss by delay. He must at the same time say, that it was a
bill on which no one but a Member of the Government could propose any important amendment, and the same reason which made him assent to the principle of the bill made him very reluctant to meddle with the details. But if any suggestions of importance were offered to the noble Lord in this absence of all party views and party spirit, he did hope that the noble Lord would see the propriety of interposing the delay of two or three days between the third reading and the passing of the bill, if he thought they were entitled to weight.
He fairly owned to the noble Lord, that he thought the majority of the representatives in the new Assembly, influenced by British feelings and interests, and in favour of British connexion, would he a very narrow one. He did not think that the mercantile community and mercantile interests would be sufficiently represented under this bill, and it would be a very great improvement if, without doing injustice to any party, or disturbing the territorial settlement, a full representation could be secured to the mercantile population connected with the trade to the mother country. He observed that there was a difference of some consequence in the conditions under which partners in a mercantile concern enjoyed the franchise in Canada and in England. In England, when the premises occupied by a firm were valuable enough to give each partner a 10l. interest in the rent, he was entitled to vote. In Canada this was not so: only one could vote under such circumstances.
There were one or two other points of detail to which he wished to call the attention of the noble Lord. He thought the first suggestion of Lord Durham, that there should be no vote i of public money, except, as in this country, I at the recommendation of the Government, was a most important one. It was also a; most important object that there should be a permanent civil list to provide for the necessary expenses of the Government. We ought to disabuse the colonists of any impression that we wished for any pecuniary advantage from our connexion with them, and to make it known that the reason we required a civil list was, that we had a right to expect that the good government of the Canadians themselves should be permanently provided for. There were two civil lists; the first permanent, of 45,000l. for the judicial establishments; the next, determinable five years after the demise of the Crown, of 35,000l., for the governor and administrative functionaries, in consideration of which the territorial revenues
of the Crown were to be made over for the use of the colony for a certain period. He wished to call the attention of the noble Lord particularly to the 56th clause. He thought it of great consequence that they should make such a settlement as would leave no danger of any conflict with the new Assembly. The noble Lord proposed that, after the re-union of the provinces, the duties and revenues of the provinces should be formed into a consolidated fund, and the 56th clause of the bill had these provisions—that the expense of collecting the duties and revenues should be the first charge on the fund; that the annual interest of the public debt of the provinces of Upper and Lower Canada, now or hereafter to be incurred, should form the second charge thereon; and then the clause went on to provide that the permanent civil list of 45,000l. should form the 4th charge, and the contingent civil list of 35,000l. should be the 5th charge.
This clause, therefore, not only enabled the Colonial Legislation to pay the interest on the existing debt, of which the amount was known, but also to create a lien on the fund to pay the interest of any future debt which they might think proper to incur. Supposing, therefore, that the Colonial Legislature, seeing that they had the power to contract a debt, should borrow 3,000,000l. or 4,000,000l. for local improvements, did not that excite in the noble Lord’s mind an apprehension that the guarantee which they had for the civil list might be entirely at an end, and that they might hereafter have to discuss this question with Canada on more unfavourable terms than at present, as they would have nothing to give Canada in return? In his opinion, it would be better to tell the Canadas at once that the security of a civil list was an indispensable provision in the present arrangement, and therefore, to make the civil list the first charge on the consolidated fund after the expenses of collection and the interest of the existing debt. The next point to which he wished to refer was the source from which these revenues were to be derived. The noble Lord proposed to give up to the Assembly for local purposes the crown and territorial revenues. Now, there could be no question whatever as to the expediency of this plan, supposing the revenue was to be received from the rents of the lands; but, if any considerable portion of revenue was derivable from the sale of the land, it was quite clear that every amount derived from that source was a sale of capital.
Supposing, then, that during the life of a sovereign, who had reigned thirty or forty years, any considerable portion of the territorial revenues had been raised from the sale of land, the Colonial Assembly might say, upon a demise of the crown, “We are not in the same position as we were when we made the former arrangement, as you have not the same equivalent to offer for a civil list, and consequently there are not the same considerations for us to grant it.” He hoped, therefore, that the noble Lord would take every precaution that could be taken, and not be content with merely solving the difficulties of the present day, but that he would take every security possible, that on the termination of this civil list arrangement, the Crown should stand in the position in which it now stood, and that future civil lists should be provided for. He would not enter into further details, but he should be much gratified if the noble Lord should feel the necessity of directing his attention to the points which he had mentioned; first, the conferring on the mercantile interest of some certain share in the representation of the province; secondly, that the interest on any new debt should not be a prior charge on the consolidated fund to the civil list; and lastly, to prevent the Crown, by the present alienation of land, from drying up the resources upon which they could most rely for a future revenue, and to make some permanent arrangement for a civil list. He thanked the House for the attention with which he had been heard on a subject which was nearly exhausted in point of argument.
He entreated the House to consider that they were now contracting new obligations, placing the government of the Canadas on, he hoped, a sure foundation, and giving the colonists new assurance that as long as they were willing to maintain their connexion with this country we would give them support to the uttermost; but he wished to say, that while we took upon ourselves the onerous obligation of maintaining the security of possessions separated from us by a distance so immense, we had at the same time a right to say, “Give us some security that our connexion shall not be disturbed by those acrimonious disputes and dissensions which have already occurred; give us, not for our sake, but for your own, a permanent civil list, and give us some guarantee that British interest shall so far preponderate, that without fresh risk and hazard we may be enabled to maintain the connexion between the
two countries so long as you are inclined to abide by it.”
Sir R. Inglis said, that as his right hon. Friend, though without office, was in fact the responsible Minister of the Crown, for without his right hon. Friend’s sanction no measure could pass that House, and as such sanction had been given, it was idle for him to expect that his own opposition could be successful; but though the bill was already law, as far as the House was concerned, he must, sharing the responsibility, state his objections to the measure. His right hon. Friend had said, that the House had a choice of difficulties, and had pointed out three courses which it was possible to pursue. [The first of these was to unite the provinces under a constitutional Government, or secondly to leave a despotic Government in Lower Canada,] or thirdly, to make a division of the Canadas into three provinces, as suggested by Chief Justice Robinson. But there was a fourth proposition, to which his right hon. Friend did not seem to have directed his attention at all.
It was to leave the constitution of Upper Canada as they found it, and to give a new constitution to Lower Canada per se. He objected to the union as pregnant with danger. Had it, as now projected, been established five years ago in Canada, was there a man in that House who was not convinced that instead of the British flag waving as it now did, over Montreal or Quebec, there would float a flag consisting of twenty or thirty various colours, and that instead of discussing a civil list for Canada, we should have had an application from the Chancellor of the Exchequer for an additional grant to increase our army and navy for the security of our Canadian possessions. His right hon. Friend had stated, that all the local authorities were in favour of an union of the provinces, but certainly, up to 1838, at least, all the governors of the respective provinces were adverse to it.
He did not know whether Sir John Colborne, now Lord Seaton, had modified his opinion, but Sir Francis Head was decidedly opposed to it, so also was Chief Justice Robinson. As to the opinions of the Legislative Council, who now held their places at the will of the governor, they could not exercise an independent judgment, as last year they were entitled and enabled to do. Believing that the preponderance of British interests, which was the most important point to be considered, would be materially affected by this bill, and holding
that they had no right to legislate, even at the desire of the colonists, without reference to the influence which that legislation would have on the interests of the mother country, and believing that the union of the two provinces would tend to the disunion of both from the mother country, and considering also that the consequence of that union would be to raise up the anti-Protestant party in the colony, and to degrade the Protestant party there, he should second his hon. Friend in the opposition which he had offered to the bill.
Mr. E. Ellice—It was not certainly his intention to have troubled the House before the third reading was agreed to, however strongly he felt some objections to certain clauses in this bill. But as the right hon. Baronet had stated some objections to other clauses, and as he thought it likely that his noble Friend would reply, it might be as well for him to state his views at once, rather than have a division and subsequent debate when the bill passed its present stage. Before he made any observations on the measure itself, he must express his surprise that the hon. Baronet (Sir R. Inglis), placing entire confidence in the right hon. Gentleman (Sir R. Peel), holding him to be the responsible Minister of the country, and being on all occasions ready to support him, should have now deserted him on the grounds which he stated.
But whether the hon. Baronet thought the course of the right hon. Baronet good or not, he, on behalf of the people of Canada, begged leave to express to the right hon. Baronet his warmest thanks for the candid and able manner in which he had come forward to share the responsibility of this measure. He knew of what value the right hon. Baronet’s support would be reckoned in that country—he knew of what value it was that nearly as unanimous an assent as possible should be given by that House. Therefore he, for one, felt deeply the obligation which the right hon. Gentleman had imposed on the friends of Canada. With the right hon. Baronet he entertained considerable apprehensions with regard to the issue of this settlement. He never disguised from himself that adopt what suggestions they might from men entitled to great weight and authority, still any experiment which might be determined on would be attended with great risk and danger; but he entirely agreed with the right hon. Baronet, that in the midst of the difficulties which surrounded the question we had mainly to look for their solution to
the declared and recorded opinions of the majority of the inhabitants for whose interests we proposed to legislate. He himself, though he had been of the earliest advocates for the principle of the proposed measure, must confess that his conviction was considerably shaken, especially when he called to mind the extended region which it was intended to administer under one Government; and he believed that it was well known to his friends, that his opinion was, that a congress (however the word might “shock ears polite”) was necessary, so that two local Legislatures should govern the local interests of each country, and that a central Legislature should be formed to superintend the general interests of both countries.
That was a question which wade him hesitate to take so hold a step as the proposal of an union. He thought, if his suggestion were adopted, even though they should fail in new proposals, they had still the old local Legislatures to fall back upon. But, whatever opinions he might have formed on mature consideration, and on a knowledge of the circumstances of the country, of which he had some experience, he was perfectly willing to give up, on the expression of the general feeling of the inhabitants as to what they considered best for their welfare. Although he had then an apprehension that we might incur considerable risk, even when recommended by every person of any authority on the subject, and by the recorded opinions of all the constituted authorities in Canada, he still must say that he was not without considerable hopes of its success. He believed, that the people of that country were perfectly sick of the agitation which had prevailed. He believed they were prepared to accept any settlement of affairs which gave a hope of the restoration of peace—of the ordinary pursuits of industry being conducted in security, and that the improvements which it was impossible to attempt under the old state of things would be carried into operation under the influence of a government measure. He was confirmed in that opinion by all the information which had been received on the subject of our Canadian difficulties. He did not despair of the French population accepting, on reflection, the proposed measure as one which would contribute mainly to the formation of their own interests. And as it was now decided to make this a British colony, and to have British interests paramount in it, he could not but hope that the French population, which was
characterised by as good moral conduct and as good feeling as any in the world, would become reconciled to the English Government, and cordially act with their British brethren to secure the well-being of the whole community. This was, he repeated, his fervent hope, accompanied, he admitted, with some misgivings as to the risk which we ran in this proposal, after the distraction and disunion which had prevailed in these provinces. Now, having said so much on the measure itself, he wished to state his objections to some of the clauses, which had nothing whatever to do with the object of the bill, and started entirely separate considerations. So far as the bill went to restore constitutional institutions to the Canadas, he entirely approved of it. He did not rind, however, in all the papers which were presented to the House, any expression of opinion from any portion of the inhabitants of either province, or from any person in this country connected with Canada (whose views he had taken some trouble to ascertain), to the effect, that they wished the executive authority in that country should have delegated to it the power of creating new institutions unknown to the country, and which institutions, according to the form proposed in this bill, would never accomplish the objects intended by its framers. He had no objections certainly to local rural administrations. This was a form of institution which prevailed in England in all times, in the shape of tithing, parish, and hundred. It was transferred to our colonies and to the United States, and the whole administration of their rural affairs were conducted under such a system.
He thought the only ground for recommending a change in the present local Government, was a short paragraph to be found in page thirty-three of the correspondence on Canada, in which Mr. Thomson broaches this proposal. Now, it struck him, that as they were going to establish a new government in Canada, that was quite enough for the people to undertake, without adding new municipal institutions, constituted by charter from the Crown, or appointed under the executive authorities of the Crown, by the provisions of this act. The paragraph to which he referred was to this effect,— He ought not to omit in his report a reference to the present state of municipal institutions, and Captain Pringle would furnish the fullest information on this subject. He did not propose to interfere with the present townships
of Upper Canada: but as in Lower Canada there were no such divisions as those made in the former, under an act of the local Legislature, he intended that municipal institutions should be there appointed. Well, this was the only ground on which they were called on to provide these institutions; and as Mr. Thomson gave no further reason for them, we had no other authority to rely upon but Captain Pringle’s report, on which he grounded his application to Parliament. Now, on turning to Captain Pringle’s report, he found that the inhabitants of Upper Canada were able, whenever they thought proper, to apply to the local Legislature, which granted them the necessary power for constituting separate jurisdictions. What was the reason of the present proposal of an union? That the united Legislature might act on the same principles as those which governed the upper province. Mr. Thomson did not express a doubt that such would be the result, and if Mr. Thomson had, he should have a still greater difficulty than at present in acceding to the proposal for a junction of the two Legislatures. Well, then, nothing could be better than the institutions which the people had formed for themselves, and which accomplished all the objects which they desired under such a regulation. What was the use of disturbing a system which had worked with advantage and gave satisfaction?
The truth was, that the Government had an object besides that which they avowed, and he should now tell the House what that was. It was said, that the present council had not sufficient power to tax the wild lands for the purpose of public improvements, and that this bill would authorise such a proceeding. Well, was it proposed seriously to have two conflicting Legislatures, and that the Executive Government should give some other institution than that of Parliament the power of taxing ad libitum the inhabitants of Canada? He could not conceive a more mischievous invention, or one better calculated for setting a whole country in confusion. Let not the House suppose that he was an enemy to the professed object of this scheme. It was assumed, that the Legislature could not be trusted, and that it was best to provide for local improvements through the parties immediately interested. But he begged any Gentleman who recollected the old Irish grand jury system to bear in mind what scenes of jobbing, might be devised under the guise of improvements.
But, so far from having the least objection to the formation of local institutions for the government of parochial or district affairs, he entirely approved of that principle of government. And as to taxing the wild lands, his only regret was, that that subject had not been taken up by the Government and recommended strongly to the local Legislature. He found by his evidence in 1828 that he represented the manner in which those lands had been disposed of as one of the greatest practical evils of which the Canadians had to complain, inasmuch as they had been inconsiderately bestowed in large masses, without affixing the proper conditions to the tenure, or making them liable to taxation.
The consequence was, that this vast property lay idle, to the great detriment of the public. That was the opinion which he then gave, and he illustrated it by a reference to the practice in the State of New York, where he himself paid heavy taxes for local improvements. And here he could not help noticing an assertion of Captain Pringle, as to the taxation being levied under a local authority in that state. No such thing was done. If a new road was required there, the Legislature determined upon the proposal, and employed the authorities of the district merely to levy the cost of it on the proprietors of land; a course similar to that pursued in this country. We might make as many new institutions as we pleased; we might call them municipal, or designate them in any other way we chose, but we could not get a better machinery than that which Englishmen had always been accustomed to, and which if we left them to themselves they would always be found willing to keep in motion.
The most amusing part of these matters was the particular report laid before the House for the purpose of justifying the intended regulations. It illustrated very strongly what the right hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Peel) stated, that gentlemen now went to Canada for six weeks, believing what strangers at both sides told them, but without sufficient knowledge of the circumstances of the country to enable them to give us information on which we could rely. Captain Pringle was a gentleman of great intelligence, and who had done much service in various colonies, but he certainly seemed to go to Canada under the impression, that in six weeks he could write a report, from what he must have heard very loosely from other persons as to the measures to be adopted, for its future government
at the recommendation of Mr. Thomson. Of all the papers connected with Canada, he never read one so full of vague theories and idle speculations as this report. Here he must say, that he did not agree in the justness of the charge which had been brought against the present Governor, of having used undue means to obtain an acquiescence in his proposal of a union, because there was a great deal which a person so situated must do, and ought to do, for the execution of the purposes which he believed right; and he felt bound to acknowledge, that in the whole course of his experience no one had executed the duties of his office with more intelligence, tact, and ability, than Mr. Thomson. He only regretted, that, having obtained the sanction of the Legislature in. Upper Canada, and of the Council in Lower Canada, to his plan for a union, he had not likewise submitted to the same tribunal the suggestions of Captain Pringle as to the formation of Municipal Councils.
If Mr. Thomson had gone to these bodies and said, “This is a very important measure, which I intend to recommend to the Government at home, and being satisfied that it is a measure of the utmost importance to your interests, I wish you to look into the grounds on which it is intended to support it. If you have anything to object to in it, state your views, or if you wish to add to it, say in what manner.” If Mr. Thomson had taken this course, he would have saved the House the trouble of listening to his remarks, because he defied him to show that paper to any one who understood the local affairs of Canada, without his at once declaring that it would be impossible to found any legislation on it. The object of establishing those councils was two-fold, first, to raise taxes from the land, or force the proprietors to give it up, and through that means make certain improvements which would induce emigrants to settle there. Captain Pringle says, that from the inquiries he made, he was led to the conclusion, that to make roads through the wild lands it would be necessary to subject them to a tax of three pence currency per acre. Now, when he told the House that this would amount to an actual confiscation of the whole land of Canada, it ought to make them cautious how they proceeded on such evidence. But if they were not satisfied with his authority, which he pledged for the accuracy of the statement, they might take Captain Pringle’s. Captain Pringle said,
That the Assembly of Upper Canada passed a law for taxing the waste lands, and imposed on them one-eighth per cent, per acre. Now let the House consider the consequences of that tax. The result was, that the parties holding the lands felt this imposition to be so onerous, that they resolved to allow their lands to be confiscated, and they were sold at a sheriff’s sale, where they were purchased by jobbers. He would stop for a moment to observe, that the gentlemen charged with land jobbery, were some of the most useful in Canada. To expect that a pauper from this country could start immediately into a proprietor was a vain delusion.
It was true, he might raise himself to that position somewhat sooner than if he were at home, but he would have to acquire a little means to do so; and if he had not a “land jobber” to build a church, a school, and make a road for him, he had better stop at home, in the greatest misery in which he could be placed. There must be a capitalist between the labourer and the farmer; and these land jobbers, who were accused of buying land cheap, and selling it dear, were the very men that every new country ought to covet. But to return to Captain Pringle’s statement. He complained that the land jobbers purchased the whole fee-simple of the land sold, from the effects he had described, at five pence an acre. Captain Pringle calculated that 100,000l. would be raised in Upper Canada, under his plan for public improvements. He very much doubted whether the whole land of the province would fetch that sum. So that the state of Canada would be this, that you would not leave to the Legislature the local management of parochial affairs, but vest in the Governor the power of constituting municipal institutions, with the open and direct intention of confiscating the property of every district in Canada.
He hoped he should hear some other reasons for granting that power. There was another, and a very serious question, which arose on this bill, namely, how far it was wise, after all the difficulties of the colony, to set up conflicting authorities. He did not see to what extent the power of the Governor went. Did they intend that one set of councils should be formed by the local Legislature and another under this bill; that one parish should impose a tax of one penny on the land, and the next three pence? They might judge of the difficulties which surrounded any tampering with the existing system, when he stated, that
in the council of the district below the three rivers near Quebec, there was not a single man who could read or write. Now, as to the efficacy of the existing system, he appealed to the right hon. Member for Tynemouth (Sir C. Grey), whether there were not as good roads in Canada as in the States. But these roads were kept in repair under stringent regulations, which were necessary until the people acquired a good deal of political education. Do not let him be understood as contending against the principle of introducing these institutions by degrees and cautiously into Canada; but why constitute a Legislature on the principle of giving the predominance to English feelings and habits, and yet not trust it with the superintendence of local management? He admitted, that the confusion was very great which existed with respect to the tenure of lands; but he was convinced that the evil would not be remedied by the appointment of district councils in the manner proposed by this bill. In conclusion he would express a hope that nothing would induce his right hon. Friend, the present Governor-general of Canada, to leave the country until the measure under consideration was carried into full and complete effect. It was of the utmost importance to the prosperity and well-being of the Canadian provinces that there should not continue to be so frequent a change of governors as unhappily had taken place of late.
This was the more especially unfortunate when the machinery of an act involving so great a change was about to be set in motion. He had thus briefly stated his objections to those clauses of the bill which he thought were not well advised. It was not his intention to make any motion upon the subject. He would rather follow the example which had been set by the right hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Peel) opposite, of making suggestions to the Government; but if it were rendered necessary, he should be perfectly ready to move such amendments as would embody and carry out the views which he entertained in opposition to those of his noble Friend (Lord J. Russell). He could not help feeling that upon this Canadian question he had not always done his duty. He believed that if his advice had been followed during the last five years the situation of the Canadas would have been widely different from what it was now. Not pressing that advice, he had sacrificed a great deal to party and personal feeling. If, however, the
necessity should arise, he should be perfectly ready, upon his responsibility, to take the sense of the House against the clauses to which he had stated his objections. He trusted that the House would feel with him that he had acted on no light grounds. He had only one more word to add. A fear had been expressed that under the operation of the measure now proposed, religious animosities would enter into the future government of the Canadas. He felt strongly convinced that that would not be the case. He thought that any one who looked to the history of the rebellion in those provinces—any one who looked to what was passing in the adjoining States of the North American union, would at once dismiss from his mind any fear of the re-ascendancy of any one religion over another in the Canadas, and more especially of that religion which seemed to be so much feared.
Of the priesthood of that religion he must say that there did not exist in any country a body of ecclesiastics so little capable of perverting the influences of religion to party and political purposes, as the Roman Catholic clergy of the Canadian provinces. If their advice had been followed the Canadians would at this moment have been a happy and contented race; and he was satisfied that the House and the country might rely upon the continuation of such a course of conduct on their part, as would completely remove all the apprehensions which appeared to prevail in some quarters on the subject. In taking leave of the measure, he ventured to express a doubt as to certain dangers that might be attendant upon it, but a stronger hope that it might lead to a restoration of peace and quiet, and the establishment of a free and permanent constitution.
Lord Stanley, not having had an opportunity of expressing his opinion upon this subject in any of the previous stages of the bill, hoped to obtain the indulgence of the House whilst he very briefly stated them now. He fully concurred in all that had fallen from his right hon. Friend, the Member for Tamworth, and in much that he had just heard with very sincere satisfaction proceeding from one so experienced in Canadian affairs, as his right hon. Friend who last addressed the House. He was not insensible to the hazard and danger which accompanied any step which this country might take upon a subject so involved and complicated as the affairs of Canada; but he was satisfied that if the
danger of moving in the matter were great, the hazard of doing nothing, of allowing matters to arrange themselves, or of permitting them to remain as they were at present, was not, properly speaking, a hazard, but an absolute certainty of involving the British interest in Canada in the most serious disaster, if not in utter ruin. He trusted that the measure now proposed would not only obtain the concurrence of a considerable majority of that House, but earnestly hoped that his hon. Friend, the Member for Caithness (Sir George Sinclair), who led the opposition to the bill in its present stage, would not give the House the trouble of dividing upon the question, nor incur the mischief of conveying to the people of Canada an idea that there was a material difference of opinion in the British House of Commons upon the measure now before it.
The hon. Member for Caithness said, that there were very valid and sound reasons in 1791 for the separation of the two great Canadian provinces; and that the same reasons which then rendered the separation advisable rendered their re-union unadvisable at present. It was very difficult for us at the present time to place ourselves precisely in the situation of persons who acted under circumstances so widely different as those which obtained in 1791. But admitting, for the sake of argument that, the measure of 1791 was as wise as his hon. Friend deemed it to be—a matter which, with all respect for his hon. Friend, he held to be extremely doubtful—still he could not agree that circumstances remained now as they were then, nor admit that there was anything in the changed position of the provinces that afforded a valid argument against the project for re-uniting them. Even if it had been possible in 1791, or in the years that had subsequently elapsed, to carry into full effect the plan that seemed to have been contemplated—of separating and distinguishing the two races in the Canadas—of leaving the French Canadian population in the enjoyment of their own laws and customs in the lower province, and establishing in the upper province a British population, not mixing with or rivalling the French, but-enjoying British institutions and pursuing British interests, in a portion of the country devoted exclusively to themselves—he should say that, considered physically and geographically, the arrangement was one that would be likely to lead to serious difficulties and much embarrassment to
both provinces. The very fact of the great river St. Lawrence being the common medium of communication between both provinces and the mother country—being absolutely essential to the commercial prosperity and political importance of the upper province, but wholly useless to it unless a free navigation of its stream were cordially concurred in by the lower province—that very fact was in itself sufficient, in his opinion, to throw infinite doubt upon the wisdom and propriety, as a permanent arrangement, of separating the two provinces, and giving to them separate interests and separate legislatures. But the moment that it became evidently impossible that the lower province could continue to be a purely French province—the moment that a British population began to spring up in that province, inferior in point of numbers, but infinitely superior in intelligence, and in activity and enterprise to the ancient habitants—from that moment it was certain that in the restricted sphere of the lower province we were introducing, upon a limited scale, those very dissensions and divisions which by the separation of the two provinces it was the object of the legislators of 1791 to avoid.
From that very time it became evident that, sooner or later, the superior intelligence, activity, and capital of the British population, properly guarded and supported by the mother country, must obtain an ascendancy above the French. The moment that that state of things arose, it was impossible not to turn one’s eyes to the time when it would be advisable that the step of 1791 should be retraced, and the re-union of the two provinces effected. Although he could boast of but very little personal acquaintance with these colonies, yet from the first moment he had any knowledge of them his mind bent forward to the period when their re-union would be necessary. But at the same time that he was always sensible of the danger and hazard of a premature or too precipitate step towards that end on the one hand, and the equal danger and hazard of a too long delay on the other, he was not less sensible that the proposition for the re-union, whenever it was made, would not be unattended with considerable difficulty. But what was the state of things in which we were now legislating? Was it possible that the existing state of things could continue? Had any feasible project been submitted to the House or to the country in opposition, or as a counter project to the measures proposed by the
Government? Even if that had been the case—even if the difference of advantage or disadvantage between any two competing plans were more precisely balanced than was the case in any projects he had yet heard—he should still hesitate, should still feel extreme reluctance and unwillingness to take from the Government the responsibility of introducing and carrying through the Imperial Parliament the measures necessary to be adopted upon a matter of so much importance. Circumstances of this kind were not to be dealt with by individual Members. Indeed it was a fearful risk for any Member in opposition to the Government to take upon himself the responsibility of advising the step which should be taken in matters of such importance. For that reason, even if his opinion upon the subject were more nicely balanced than it was, he should say that the fact of the measure being submitted upon the authority of the responsible advisers of the Crown would go a long way with him in inducing him to waive any abstract feeling that he might entertain in favour of other plans, and to shrink from the fearful responsibility of seeking to defeat that which the Government declared to be practicable, without the absolute certainty of being able to introduce and to carry, in the whole of its details, a measure at least equally beneficial and advantageous to the colonies and to the mother country. His hon. Friend, the Member for the University of Oxford, (Sir R. Inglis) had certainly put forward a proposition in the course of the discussion that evening, which he believed had not been advanced by any preceding speaker.
His hon. Friend said, that it was not merely a question between leaving a despotic Government in Lower Canada, and the union of the two provinces under a liberal form of government, but that another course was open to the adoption of the Legislature, namely, to leave the constitution of Upper Canada precisely on the footing on which it now stood, and to grant to Lower Canada such a separate constitution as the peculiar circumstances of that province should seem to require. But what was the constitution to be? His hon. Friend said, that he would give to the lower province a form of government which should not be despotic, and yet not representative. Had his hon. Friend considered in every degree the details of a measure which should at once maintain the authority of the Crown in the present state of the lower province—which should remove the
stigma of a despotic Government in that province, and yet at the same time maintain that security for the British population which he knew it was his hon. Friend’s desire to maintain? How was this intermediate constitution to be framed? How long did his hon. Friend think that the French Canadians would be satisfied with such a constitution? How long would they remain contented with a mere restricted form of government than the upper province? If the Legislature were to overlook, as he was not disposed to do, the feelings and interests of the French Canadians, how long did his hon. Friend suppose, that the British population in the lower province would continue contented with a form of government less free than that of the upper province? He was not upon the present occasion disposed to enter into the details of the plan proposed by her Majesty’s Ministers. He hoped, however, to hear from his noble Friend, the Secretary for the Colonies, some satisfactory explanation upon the point that was raised by the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, with regard to the security of the civil list provided for her Majesty in the Canadas, and the protection to be afforded to the consolidated fund against the accumulation of future debt.
Upon that point, he thought, that the case was even stronger than had been stated by his right hon. Friend; and if he were not mistaken in his interpretation of the 50th clause, he would appeal to the noble Lord, whether, after the third reading of the bill had been acquiesced in, it would not be better to postpone the question, “that it do pass” for a few days, with the view of taking into calm and deliberate consideration the suggestions which had been thrown out on that (the Opposition) side of the House. For the permanent protection of British interests in the colonies, he apprehended that nothing was more desirable than to keep up a constant stream of emigration towards them from the mother country. He admitted that a great improvement in that respect had taken place since the period when he was connected with the Colonial-office. He approved of the system which obtained in the South Australian provinces, of devoting the proceeds of the sale of lands to the purposes of immigration into the colonies, under the superintendence of the governor. Under such a system, a mutual benefit was conferred upon the mother country, and upon the colony. But it was right that it should be distinctly understood, that any encouragement
to immigration into the Canadas, derivable from the proceeds of the sale of Crown lands in those provinces, must be placed entirely out of view. The right of the Government to make provision for the settlement of British emigrants out of the Crown lands in Canada, was at once and forever surrendered by this bill. He was not quite certain whether the Government intended to keep in their own hands the management of the lands of the Crown. He presumed that they meant to do so; but upon that point he hoped to have a distinct assurance from his noble Friend.
He hoped to hear that the management of the Crown lands would continue in the hands of the Crown; and that it was not the Crown lands themselves, but the revenue arising from them, that it was proposed to transfer to the House of Assembly. It was necessary that the nature of the bargain should be distinctly understood. His noble Friend, he was sure, would not omit to notice the other point referred to by the right hon. Member for Tamworth, namely, that it was of great importance to recollect that, in all proceedings connected with land in the Canadas, we were not dealing with a matter that was, in any respect, analogous to the British constitution. With regard to the points which had been touched upon by his right hon. Friend (Mr. Edward Ellice) he could only say, from his very limited knowledge upon the subject, that he was disposed entirely to concur with him in the extreme impropriety of inserting into this bill the provisions that at present formed part of it, for the establishment of district councils.
In a country so widely extended as the united Canadian provinces would be, it would, no doubt, be necessary to introduce a system of subordinate local administration; but it appeared that such a system already existed—was in every respect adequate to the present wants of the country, and capable of being extended as those wants increased. Where then, was the policy of attempting, in the face of this fact, to force upon the colony a system which they did not want—a system towards which they entertained a strong dislike—a system which had already been tried, and which the colonists had earnestly petitioned to have repealed. It was obvious that upon matters such as this, the colonists would be able to legislate better for themselves, than it would be possible for the Imperial Parliament, with the best intentions, to legislate for them. Sensible of the necessity of reuniting the two provinces—
sensible of the hazard and danger of allowing another Session to pass by without taking some step to provide for the government of that important portion of our empire, and sensible of the responsibility which those persons would take upon themselves who ventured to reject the provisions proposed by the Government, he should feel it his duty, although he did not approve of every part of the bill, to vote in favour of the motion for the third reading.
Mr. Edward Ellice entirely concurred in every word that had fallen from the noble Lord, with respect to the district administration. All that he contended for was, that the provincial Legislature would he the best judge as to the power that should be vested in the district courts, as well as for the purposes for which they should be established.
Viscount Howick said, it did not appear to him that the explanation of his right hon. Friend was quite consistent with some of the arguments which he had used in the first instance, because, if he was not mistaken, he had heard complaints from his right hon. Friend, of the great inconsistency in giving a power of taxation to the district council, and to the Legislature. He was quite sure that his hon. Friend would admit having used this as an argument, that the power granted to these bodies would infallibly clash. From that opinion, however, he entirely dissented. It appeared to him, that the clauses which it was proposed to omit were essential to the measure before the House. He did not give this as his own opinion merely, but as that of persons of much higher authority, that there was nothing so essential to free Government as a proper division of the authorities which exercised independent functions. Unless they created something of this sort, it was impossible that the united Legislature could work, for he did not disguise from himself the great practical difficulty of carrying on the government of so extensive a district by one single Legislature, and nothing but the impossibility of preserving the present state of affairs would have conciliated him to the union of the two provinces. But he thought it was absolutely impossible that the affairs of that country could be carried on if they did not allow the establishment of representative bodies in the minor districts, elected by the inhabitants, for the management of their own local affairs; and such a power was the more necessary
to be granted, since there was a clause in the present bill which required that every grant of public money should be first sanctioned by a responsible officer of the Government. In this country, parochial taxation was totally distinct from general taxation. In the United States, they knew that there were three or four different budgets, which were proceeded with independent of each other. He was convinced that the same system was absolutely necessary in Canada; and when his right hon. Friend asked the House why they thought it necessary to create institutions of this kind in Upper Canada, his answer was, that the provisions of the present bill did not go to create, but to extend and improve them, so that these local authorities might be some check to the central authority.
He deprecated leaving this matter to be hereafter regulated by the united Assembly, more especially with regard to Lower Canada, where such bodies would come into operation almost simultaneously with that form of government which they now proposed to give them. He would remark, that the clause in the bill did not distinctly propose a power of taxing wild lands, but he thought the local bodies ought to possess the power of imposing such rates as they thought proper and necessary, in the localities which they represented. This appeared to him to be most just, and he thought it possible that his right hon. Friend, who, it was well known, owned large tracts of land in that country, had allowed himself to be biased in the views he had taken on this branch of the subject.
In the other observations of his right hon. Friend he entirely concurred. He believed that the cry raised against the land-jobbers was unjust. Within certain bounds it was highly desirable that their capital should be invested in land, but there were also many abuses in the mode of granting it, for often the land was left unimproved for a long series of years, and extensive tracts in such a state was a grievous burden to the industrious settler. Holding these views, he could not help expressing his anxiety that the clauses should not be omitted from the present bill. If any amendment could he suggested, he would be glad to concur in it; but the omission of the clauses altogether would be to make a measure which had passed all its stages in so satisfactory a manner imperfect in its most important point.
Mr. Pakington felt deeply sensible how important a measure this was, both as regarded
Canada and Great Britain; yet he must protest against it as one fraught with danger. He hoped that he did not deviate from that unanimity of feeling which had characterized the progress of this hill when he so protested, yet he felt it due to himself to declare that he had heard nothing up to that moment to remove the alarm which he felt. His apprehensions arose from his belief that there would be great danger in attempting to govern so extensive a district by one Legislative Assembly, and that the union of the two provinces would be productive of the greatest dissensions between the two parties. The noble Lord (Howick) had admitted that the great extent of Canada formed a serious objection to its government by one Legislative Assembly and one Executive Council. The right hon. Member for Tamworth and the hon. Member for Liskeard had also admitted that the subject was fraught with great danger; but there was another source of apprehension which nobody had adverted to except the right hon. Member for Tamworth, and that was, whether the Government of that country, by a Legislative Assembly constituted according to the bill before the House, would be able to secure a sufficient majority to work out their plans. Was it certain that they would have any majority at all?
Looking to the large proportion of the disaffected in the upper province, and the overwhelming majority of the French population in Lower Canada, he very much doubted whether they would have a sufficient majority to keep up the connexion between Great Britain and Canada. The two most important features in the bill were the constitution of the House of Assembly and the district councils, yet both of these had been condemned by the right hon. Gentleman opposite. He thought that, under these circumstances, he was fully borne out in protesting against the bill; yet he would admit that, if the constituted authorities in the upper province were of opinion that the measure was essential to the welfare of Canada, the House could not have a better or a stronger argument for the measure. He, however, locked beyond the present session of the Assembly in Upper Canada, which had commenced its political existence by condemning the union, and had not agreed to it this session, without affixing conditions to its assent, several of which had not been attended to by the Government of this country. He doubted, therefore, when the Assembly found that their conditions
were disregarded, especially that one which went to fix the seat of government within their own province, whether they would regard the measure with satisfaction. He thought there was a better mode of settling the question than by the union of the two provinces, and that was by the annexation of the city of Montreal to the upper province. This plan was approved of so far back as 1828 by Sir Wilmot Horton, and it was only the other day that he had conversed with an intelligent gentleman who had recently arrived from Canada, who informed him that his plan, which was also one of the alternatives proposed by Chief Justice Robinson, met with the strongest approbation from the British inhabitants of the province. From what had occurred, however, he foresaw that the present bill would pass, and he only hoped that his predictions would turn out to be false.
Lord John Russell acknowledged that whatever difficulties might attend the after government of the Canadas, they certainly would not arise from any party feeling manifested in the discussion of this bill, and that whatever success might accompany the measure, that success was rendered far more probable after the calm and dispassionate mode in which its provisions had that night been discussed. With regard to the general measure, and to the principle of the union, he believed that he had always stated, as the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth had that evening stated, and as the hon. Member for Droitwich had admitted, that it was rather from a comparison of the difficulties and dangers attending on other courses, and not from any abstract principle, that he was led to prefer this measure for the union of the two provinces.
He had considered carefully every proposition that had been made. He would not say that he had gone through the eight alternatives of Chief Justice Robinson, but he had considered the principal one in order to see whether it could be adopted, but the result of his examination only convinced him that there was no course which was not attended with greater difficulties than the one they had now taken—no measure less liable to objection than the bill before the House. Although there might be many objections to it, yet, on the whole, he thought it had greater prospect of success—was more likely to secure the welfare of the people of Canada, and contribute to uphold the
connexion between that colony and England than any other measure which Government could propose. More than this: it was admitted by all that it was a question of very great difficulty—a question encompassed with eternal discussions—with agitation, leading to civil war—with the prospect of foreign invasion—with animosities between different races, and all the evils which accompany these calamities. Hence it was, that though this measure might be one not unattended with danger, yet it was the best which could be introduced on the subject. With respect to the various parts of the bill, he would shortly state what he thought.
With regard to the objection stated by the noble Lord, the Member for North Lancashire, to the civil list, that the annual interest on the public debt would be a charge upon the consolidated revenue, it might be said in answer to that objection, that the Government had it in their power to refuse their consent to any act which went to increase that debt. It had been said that, although the consolidated revenue was to have the whole fund which was now the Crown revenue, yet on the expiration of the civil list that revenue would revert without being charged with any portion of the debt. He must confess, too, that the force of the objection was not much lessened by saying that the Crown might refuse its assent, for this might be a most injurious act, and he wished, therefore, to take a few days to consider a point which he thought of very considerable importance, but which did not strike him before the right hon. Gentleman had stated it.
The noble Lord, the Member for North Lancashire, had asked whether the management of the Crown lands would be vested in the Crown. He conceived that the management would remain with the Crown. There was no provision in the bill which took away the management from the officers of the Crown, and the proceeds of the Crown revenue would still remain in their care. He did not think that any great loss would arise to the Crown from the sale of lands, for although a part of the lands might be sold, other parts would become more valuable, and in this way the revenue would be increased. He did not think, therefore, that the revenue would be much affected by the sale of the Crown lands. A further objection stated was, that the Assembly might be disposed to
sanction a very speedy and indiscriminate sale of the Crown lands; but he thought there would exist a sufficient control in the hands of the Crown, and the officers appointed by the Crown, to resist any such extravagant and improvident an event. He came now to the objections stated by his right hon. Friend the Member for Coventry with respect to those parts of the bill which affected the municipal councils. In the first place, he thought he could satisfy his right hon. Friend’s mind upon two points, which appeared to him to be rather more specious than real objections to this measure. One of those points was, that the word “municipal” had occurred somewhere or other; and the other point was, that the measure was all founded upon Captain Pringle’s report. Now, in the first place, in this bill the word “municipal” is not once mentioned; his right hon. Friend need not, therefore, be so very much alarmed upon that point.
Next, with regard to Captain Pringle, it was true that that Gentleman had made a report upon the subject, but his right hon. Friend was doing Captain Pringle a great deal of honour by attending more to that report than to the other papers that had been presented on the same subject. Although there might be some errors in Captain Pringle’s report, and although it might be true that Captain Pringle had not been long in Canada before he made his report, yet he could not conceive that that was any more reason against adopting any suggestion made by that gentleman, which was in itself good, than it would have been a good reason against reforming the prisons in the West Indies, because the report which Captain Pringle made on that subject was founded on inquiries, which were the result of a very short visit to the West Indies. But with respect to the authorities and despatches coming from official persons, and to the authority of the provincial councils, which authorities formed the foundation of those particular clauses of the bill to which objection was made, he thought attention had not been sufficiently given to them, by his right hon. Friend, who appeared to have devoted himself so much to the report of Captain Pringle, that he had not had time to give due weight to the recommendations of those authorities. When referring to the recommendation contained in page 33 of Governor Thomson’s
despatch, his right hon. Friend did not refer to page 31, in which a reason was given—and he thought a very strong reason—for introducing some measure of this kind. He must observe that he was as desirous as his right hon. Friend that the local Legislature should not have the power of making grants of money without the recommendation of the Crown; and Governor Thomson, after stating that one of the most important provisions of the plan suggested last Session, and on which the Earl of Durham laid the greatest stress, was that of restricting the money votes of the House of Assembly to the purposes of the general government, which would put an end to the gross system that had been practiced in applying the public money to local purposes, proceeded to recommend that some machinery should be provided by which a system of local taxation might be established for purely local purposes. His right hon. Friend (Mr. Ellice) had also said, and the statement had been quoted from the pamphlet of Chief Justice Robinson, that nobody in Canada was ever heard to express a desire for these local councils, for the purpose of local taxation. But Governor Thomson distinctly stated that he found a most anxious desire among the people of Canada to have local councils established, to raise local taxation, believing as they did that it would be likely to conduce, in the highest degree, to their welfare and prosperity. Governor Thomson, who was a person of considerable experience, and possessed great knowledge of business in matters of this nature, stated that the very first thing he did, and which it was his duty to do, and which he performed with great activity, was to send to all persons in Canada who were likely to give him valuable information, and to consult with persons of various political views and parties, and to ascertain what their opinions were, and he then told the Government at home that, after having done so, he found there prevailed a very strong desire for the establishment of district councils, to raise local taxes for local purposes. Governor Thomson might be mistaken; it might he his fancy only, and the fact might be that no person in the country was ever heard to speak of it, or known to think of it. That was certainly a most improbable supposition; but for a moment he would suppose it to to be true; and he would then ask what
said the Commons in the provincial Parliament assembled in Lower Canada? They had presented an address to her Majesty the Queen, in which they said— We have no desire to interfere unnecessarily with questions of detail, but we cannot omit respectfully soliciting your Majesty’s attention to the introduction of a system of municipal government in Lower Canada, in order to establish a system of local taxation upon the same principle as is established in Upper Canada.”
Some Hon. Members—Hear, Hear.
Lord John Russell—Well! but what then became of all that his right hon. Friend said about conflicting principles? What then became of all he had stated with regard to these local bodies having a power of local taxation being a conflicting power with the Legislature of the united provinces? because, although his right hon. Friend afterwards said that he did not object to local taxation by local bodies, yet a great part of his argument was founded upon the fact that these local bodies were to impose taxation upon the Crown lands. It appeared, then, from the Governor’s statement that the people of the Lower Province were desirous to have these local bodies established upon the same principle which prevailed in the Upper Province.
The House of Assembly of the Lower Province also recommended the Crown to introduce that system. His right hon. Friend was correct in saying that they were not about to introduce exactly the system prevailing in the Upper Province, because there was some difference between that and the system recommended to be adopted; but he believed the chief difference consisted in the amount of power of taxation rather than in the nature of the councils to be established. The elective councils in Upper Canada raised local taxation for local purposes—for building the sessions-house, for conducting trials, and so on, Now, it was proposed that the district councils, which would also be elective councils, both in Lower and Upper Canada, should be established for very similar purposes to those now existing in Upper Canada. Therefore, the objection of his right hon. Friend did not so much go to the entire rejection of these clauses, as to their not being in all respects adapted to the system now prevailing in Upper Canada. It might be argued that this system might be introduced by the local Legislature of the united provinces. Upon that point he admitted he thought
there was considerable doubt. He should have been disposed to say, as a general question, before he had heard the opinions of those authorities in Canada, to which he had referred, that it would have been better to have left it to the general Legislature of the united provinces to introduce these municipal or district councils for the purposes of local taxation; but he had now, on the other hand, the opinion of Governor Thomson, and also the opinion of Chief Justice Stewart—who framed a number of clauses in detail, but which he (Lord John Russell) did not think proper to submit to the House because they went into more detail than was necessary—and he had also the opinion of the House of Assembly of Lower Canada, especially recommending the subject to the notice of the Imperial Legislature.
However, he admitted that nothing ought to be introduced into this bill which was likely to be effected, and better effected, by the Legislature of the united provinces. If it were the opinion of the House that there were no objections, either from jealousy of race or from local circumstances, which would prevent the Legislature of the united provinces undertaking this subject—if it were the opinion of the House that the subject could be more safely left to the local Legislature, then certainly it would not be necessary for them to keep such clauses in the bill. He owned that his opinion was, when he introduced the clauses, and he still was of opinion, that the clauses had better be in the bill; nevertheless he would say with respect to this part of the bill, as he had said with regard to the civil list, that upon that point he should wish, after hearing so fair and so calm an opinion expressed by his right hon. Friend on the subject, to have some short time allowed him to consider the matter more maturely.
If he should think, as the Governor had stated, that these clauses were necessary, he would fairly state that opinion to the House, and put it to the House to decide the question; but if, on further consideration, he should come to a contrary conclusion, he should have no hesitation in avowing his concurrence with the proposition of his right hon. Friend, who would at least admit that it was not without some authority and some grounds that the Government had proposed this measure. Now with regard to the great weight given by the hon. Gentleman who spoke last to
the opinions of Chief Justice Robinson, he must confess, that although he thought no opinions could be stated with more acuteness, or argument be more ably put, than by that Gentleman, whose talents were universally acknowledged, yet, with regard to his general principles and views of governing in Canada, he owned that he must declare his entire dissent from them.
With regard to the subject of a Church Establishment, Chief Justice Robinson had stated, no doubt, the views of the political party to which he (Lord John Russell) and his friends belonged, and of which that Gentleman was for a long time a very leading Member; yet they were not of a sort to be carried into effect in any part of Canada. He thought it was Chief Justice Robinson who had expressed the opinion—at least he was quite sure he had seen the opinion stated by others—that if, when founding our colonies in North America, which were now become the United States of America, we had carried out among the Puritans in the times of James 1st and Charles 1st a regular Church Establishment, founded and based upon the principles of the mother Church in England, that those colonies would still have remained faithful and loyal to the mother country, and that there would not have been any separation between those two parts of the British empire.
Now he (Lord John Russell), thought that an opinion more unsound never was asserted. He conceived that if ever they had attempted anything of the kind—if, in the reign of Charles 2nd, they had not been contented with restoring the Church of England in this country—if they had not been contented with the very cruel and barbarous attempt to establish the Church of England in Scotland—if, besides all this, an attempt had been made to force the Church of England upon the state of New England, and the various other provinces now forming the United States, his opinion was, instead of preventing a separation, that that separation would have taken place a century earlier than it did. He was fully convinced, whatever their opinions might be with respect to a Church Establishment in general, that the opinions which now prevailed in North America were too much rooted, and had too general an assent, as well from the members of the Church of England as from all the sects of Christians there, to admit the possibility of its
introduction, and that it would be utterly and especially insane to desire to establish a predominant Church in that country. He could not, therefore, while he admitted the talents of Chief Justice Robinson, give the same weight to his authority as other hon. Gentlemen gave. There was one other observation which fell from the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Tamworth, affecting this bill, of which he had always felt the force and effect, namely, that in making this renewed constitution for Canada—that in binding that country to us by a new legislative act—we contract a still further obligation, by all means, military and naval, to maintain the connexion between Canada and this country.
He conceived with regard to any colony, that it was their duty to keep together and maintain together the various parts of this splendid empire. But with regard to men who at various times—at the end of the late war, and during the civil war which is now but just over—with regard to men who in those times have shown their fidelity to the British Crown, who have suffered in their persons, who have suffered in their property, and who have been exposed to continual alarm, plunder, and massacre, and who yet have maintained their fidelity unimpeached, and their loyalty unspotted; to desert them, and not to put forth the right arm of England in case any danger should threaten that connection, would be an act of the utmost baseness that any Minister of this country could be guilty of, and such an abandonment, and such a dereliction of duty, as he did not believe any House of Commons in this country would sanction.
Mr. Charles Buller did not mean to go into the merits of the bill, seeing the great unanimity which prevailed with respect to it as a general measure; but although he thought the noble Lord was right in giving to the objections of the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Coventry, the fullest consideration, he hoped that no consideration would induce the noble Lord to abandon the clauses which related to local taxation. He feared, that the power proposed to be given of taxing wild lands would operate injuriously in reference to emigration, and he thought no power other than that of direct taxation should be placed in the hands of local bodies, because it would only tend to abuse. The establishment of local Assemblies for the administration of local affairs had been
recommended by Lord Durham upon the best possible information, and the wisdom of such a recommendation must be apparent to all who were at all aware of the utter unfitness of a general Legislature for such purposes, and the malpractices and jobs to which such a system gave rise. He therefore wished that the clauses to which he referred would be embodied in this bill.
The Speaker—Does the hon. Baronet intend to divide the House?
Sir George Sinclair hoped he should not be considered disrespectful if he pressed the question to a division, as no division had yet taken place on the bill. The fear he entertained was, that it might finally lead to a separation of Canada from this country; but if the bill should pass into a law, his sincere wish was, that it should be effectually carried out.
The House divided on the question, that the bill be read a third time:—-Ayes 156; Noes 6: Majority 150.
|List of the AYES.|
|Acland, Sir T. D.||East, J. B.|
|Adam, Admiral||Ellice, Captain A.|
|Aglionby, H. A.||Ellice, rt. hon. E.|
|Aglionby, Major||Ellis, J.|
|Bailey, J.||Evans, G.|
|Bailey, J., jun.||Evans, W.|
|Baldwin, C. B.||Ewart, W.|
|Bannerman, A.||Finch, F.|
|Baring, it. hon. F. T.||Fort, J.|
|Barnard, E. G.||Freemantle, Sir T.|
|Beamish, F. B.||French, F.|
|Bernal, R.||Gillon, W. D.|
|Bewes, T.||Gisborne, T.|
|Boiling, W.||Gladstone, W. E.|
|Bridgeman, H.||Godson, R.|
|Broadley, H.||Gordon, R.|
|Brocklehurst, J.||Goulburn, rt. hon. H.|
|Brodie, W. B.||Graham, rt. hon. Sir J.|
|Brotherton, J.||Grattan, H.|
|Buller, C.||Greg, R. H.|
|Buller, E.||Grey, rt. hon. Sir C.|
|Burr, H.||Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.|
|Busfeild, W.||Grimsditch, T.|
|Byng, G.||Harcourt, G. G.|
|Calcraft, J. H.||Hastie, A.|
|Chalmers, P.||Hawes, B.|
|Chapman, A.||Heathcote, J.|
|Chichester, J. P. B.||Hector, C. J.|
|Clay, W.||Hepburn, Sir T. B.|
|Clive, E. B.||Hillsborough, Earl of|
|Collier, J.||Hinde, J. H.|
|Copeland, Alderman||Hindley, C.|
|Dalrymple, Sir A.||Hobhouse, rt. hn. Sir J.|
|Davies, Colonel||Hobhouse, T. B.|
|Douglas, Sir C E.||Hodges, T. L.|
|Dundas, C. W. D.||Hodgson, R.|
|Dundas, Sir R.||Hope, G. W.|
|Dundas, D.||Horsman, E.|
|Howard, P. H.||Russell, Lord J.|
|Howick, Viscount||Russell, Lord C.|
|Hurt, F.||Salwey, Colonel|
|Hutton, R.||Scrope, G. P.|
|Ingham, R.||Sheil, rt. hon. R. L.|
|Irving, J.||Slaney, R. A.|
|James, Sir W. C.||Smith, R. V.|
|Kemble, H.||Smyth, Sir G. H.|
|Knatchbull, rt. hon. Sir E.||Somers, J. P.|
|Knight, H. G.||Stuart, W. V.|
|Labouchere, rt. hn. H.||Stock, Dr.|
|Lambton, H.||Strickland, Sir G.|
|Lennox, Lord G.||Strutt, E.|
|Lucas, E.||Surrey, Earl of|
|Lushington, C.||Talbot, C. R. M.|
|Lushington, it. hn. S.||Talbot, J. H.|
|Macaulay, rt. hn. T.B.||Tancred, H. W.|
|Macnamara, Major||Teignmouth, Lord|
|Marshall, W.||Thompson, Alderman|
|Marsland, H.||Thornley, T.|
|Marsland, T.||Tufnell, H.|
|Maule, hon. F.||Turner, W.|
|Mildmay, P. St. J.||Verney, Sir H.|
|Morpeth, Viscount||Vernon, G. H.|
|Morris, D.||Vigors, N. A.|
|O’Brien, C.||Wakley, T.|
|O’Brien, W.S.||Wallace, R.|
|Orde, W.||Warburton, H.|
|Owen, Sir J.||Ward, H. G.|
|Pechell, Captain||White, A.|
|Peel rt. hon. Sir R.||Williams, W.|
|Pendarves, E. W. W.||Williams, W. A.|
|Phillpots, J.||Winnington, Sir T. E.|
|Pigot, D. R.||Wood, C.|
|Price, Sir R.||Wood, B.|
|Protheroe, E.||Wynn, rt. hon. C. W.|
|Pusev, P.||Wyse, T.|
|Rice, E. R.||Yates, J. A.|
|Round, C. G.||Parker, J.|
|Rundle, J.||O’Ferrall, M.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Darby, G.||Vere, Sir C. B.|
|Inglis, Sir R. H.||TELLERS.|
|Mackenzie, T.||Sinclair, Sir G.|
|Plumptre, J. P.||Pakington, J,|